Pulled over by the Thought Police

A connected America must be a civil America

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ‘cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’”

– Michael Douglas’ title character in the movie The American President

Two-thirds of Americans in a new poll say America is more divided than it was four years ago.

Here’s one reason.

Beloved former pro football coach Tony Dungy, a gentleman if there ever was one, has been absolutely pilloried this week for admitting in an interview that he wouldn’t have drafted the National Football League’s first openly gay player, “Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.”

After a fierce social media backlash, Dungy added that his objection wouldn’t be Sam’s sexual orientation, but the media circus that would result.

It’s an odd statement, to be sure, from a black coaching pioneer whose predecessors endured worse. But the firestorm sort of proves his point about today’s media vortex – and validates the poll that cites America’s deepening divisions.

Look, diversity of opinion is one of America’s great strengths. But it might as easily be the end of us, if we let it. If America is to thrive, or even endure, we’ve got to give each other a little more elbow room when it comes to opinions and thinking. It’s not just the civil thing to do, it’s the American way.

As Michael Douglas’ movie character so eloquently asserted, “Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’”

Tony Dungy didn’t even come close to doing that, and look at the firestorm that encircled him. We need to ease up on each other. An increasingly connected America must also be a civil America.

Orwell’s idea of the Thought Police involved the government. He overlooked the horrifying possibility that we could be the thought cops ourselves.

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Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon